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HOD adopts dozens of new policies to end historic meeting

August 3, 2020

The American Bar Association House of Delegates adopted nearly 60 new policies at its meeting Aug. 3-4, including a resolution that urges state lawyer-licensing authorities to make public health issues paramount for upcoming bar exams and to provide options for recent graduates who cannot take the bar.

The ABA House of Delegates met online Aug. 3-4 to conclude the 2020 virtual Annual Meeting.

The ABA House of Delegates met online Aug. 3-4 to conclude the 2020 virtual Annual Meeting.

American Bar Association photo illustration

The HOD, as the 597-member group of state, local and specialty bar associations is known, met virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic to conclude the 2020 ABA Annual Meeting, which began July 29. Among the resolutions adopted as policy are several aimed at improving police-community relations and attacking racial injustice, including a measure urging the curtailment of the defense of qualified immunity in civil suits brought against law enforcement officers.

Other highlights of the ABA Annual Meeting included an appearance by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and the presentation of the ABA Medal, the association’s highest honor, to William Neukom, a former ABA president and founder of the World Justice Project.

The bar exam resolution asks the highest court or bar admission authority in each state or other licensing jurisdiction to cancel the bar exam or not administer it in person during the COVID-19 crisis unless cleared by public health authorities. The resolution offers several alternative approaches to the bar exam but does not favor any specific option. Across the country, state and other lawyer-licensing authorities made individual decisions on how best to approach the July 2020 bar exam, with some bar exams planned in the next few months.

With attention focused on police misconduct in the wake of the May 25 homicide of George Floyd and other police incidents, the HOD adopted another new policy that asks governments to enact laws that require law enforcement agencies to keep records of incidents of deadly force or excessive non-lethal force.

Among several COVID-19-related measures, the House adopted policy that recommends the government minimize evictions during the pandemic and assist both landlords and renters faced with hardship because of it. Another new policy recommends that individual parties in court cases be offered a safe “in-person hearing or delay” as long as the health crisis continues.

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